Since its opening in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge has become an
icon for the beauty and prosperity of the San Francisco Bay Area,
as well as a symbol of engineering achievement. Constructing the
bridge posed political and financial challenges that were at least
as difficult as those faced by the project's builders. To meet
these challenges, northern California boosters created a new kind
of agency: an autonomous, self-financing special district. The
Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District developed into a powerful
organization that shaped the politics and government of the Bay
Area as much as the bridge shaped its physical development.
From the moment of the bridge district's incorporation in 1928, its
managers pursued their own agenda. They used all the resources at
their disposal to preserve their control over the bridge,
cultivating political allies, influencing regional policy, and
developing an ambitious public relations program. Undaunted by
charges of mismanagement and persistent efforts to turn the bridge
(as well as its lucrative tolls) over to the state, the bridge
district expanded into mass transportation, taking on ferry and bus
operations to ensure its survival to this day.
Drawing on previously unavailable archives, Paying the
Toll gives us an inside view of the world of high-stakes
development, cronyism, and bureaucratic power politics that have
surrounded the Golden Gate Bridge since its inception.
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